There are always some neofans at every science fiction convention, and many of them are not sure how to act around professional writers, artists and editors. In 1985, I wrote the following article for the Sacramento Westercon Program Book. It was well-received, and several newcomers told me personally how helpful they found it. One group of neos even put a sign up at their table during the Meet-the-Pros party: "Free Drinks for Pros." They said they got to meet virtually everyone they'd hoped to.
In the interest of furthering goodwill between the pro and fan communities, I offer this article free to any other conventions that want to use it. I ask only a few minor conditions:
The article must contain my byline.
The article must contain the copyright notice.
While not utterly essential, I'd certainly enjoy getting a copy or two of the publication in which the article appears.
-- Stephen Goldin
by Stephen Goldin
In this article, the word "Pro" shall mean any guest of the convention: writer, artist, panelist, and any other person with some degree of celebrity.
AT THE MEET-THE-PROS PARTY
1. Offering to buy the Pro a drink or a meal is always in order.
2. This is a time for light conversation and general getting acquainted. Keep it light; make an appointment if you want a detailed philosophical discussion of the Pro's work.
3. Remember, other people may want a chance to meet and talk to this Pro, too. Don't monopolize his time.
4. This is a social occasion. Don't bring books or other items to be autographed. That's what autograph sessions are for. This is a time to talk to the Pro. The Pros are here to talk to you.
5. Most Pros have had their rabies shots and are safe to talk to, as long as you're polite. Don't be bashful. Compliments are always welcomed
AT THE AUTOGRAPH SESSION
6. See Rule 1, above.
7. Remember, this is a signing session. If a Pro has a long line of people waiting for his signature, don't tie him up with conversation. That's what the Meet-the-Pros party is for.
8. Some Pros have short lines, or none at all, at autograph sessions; that's just the way it works. If that's the case, they may enjoy someone who'll stick around and talk with them. When in doubt, ask.
9. See Rule 2, above.
10. If you have more than five or so of the Pro's works to be autographed and there are people waiting in line behind you, get five done, then go back to the end of the line to have more done later.
11. See Rule 1, above.
12. Panels are one of the few places where you can be sure of catching the Pro you're interested in. If you want to speak briefly with the Pro or get his autograph, wait until the panel is over. Then step out into the hall with him and conduct your business there so the next panel can get started.
13. See Rule 2, above.
IN THE HALLWAYS
14. See Rules 1 & 2, above.
15. If you see a Pro you want to talk to, ask if he has a moment to talk. Don't delay him on his way to the rest room, a panel, or other appointment.
16. If the Pro is involved in another conversation, don't interrupt; wait quietly at the periphery until there's a break, then excuse yourself and ask if you could have a brief word with the Pro. If the answer is no, see Rule 2, above.
IN THE BAR OR RESTAURANT
17. If you see the Pro seated by himself, you may approach and ask politely whether he wants to be alone or whether he would like some company. Restaurants and bars are not the place for autographs; if that's your aim, ask when would be a convenient time to get one.
18. If the Pro is seated with a party of other people, don't interrupt. If you know one of the people in the group, you may ask that person whether he'd mind your joining them. If you don't know anyone in the group, see Rule 16, above.
19. Don't be a sponge. Pay for your fair share (rounds, meals, etc). Many Pros are as broke as you are.
20. If you're giving a room party and would like a Pro to attend, give him a specific invitation. Many Pros would like to make the rounds of parties, and this makes them feel welcome.
21. If a Pro shows up at your party, he is fair game for discussions and autographs. After all, he came there of his own free will, and can leave whenever he wants. If you're a good host (see Rule 1, above), he might not want to.
22. See Rule 1, above.
23. Don't insult the Pro. If you have a low opinion of a given Pro, just ignore him. Life is too short to waste on negative things. There must be plenty of other people at the convention whose work you like; why else would you be here? Find them and let them know. See Rule 1, above.
Copyright © 1985 by Stephen Goldin. All Rights Reserved.
For further hints on etiquette, check out Etiquette Rules.